I sprained my ankle two weeks ago, and it got me thinking: Do organists generally play through an injury, or take time off to heal first?
After asking this question of others, here are the responses I received:
"I broke my toe a week before I was supposed to play for commencement when I was receiving my master's degree. I had to cancel and find a sub. I could not even wear my shoe, much less play. Even walking was painful. I think unless playing is absolutely unavoidable, it's best to take a break."
"I broke my right foot about three years ago and had use a boot or cast for about four months. Because I had other organists to cover for me, I was too proud to just use my left foot on the pedals...just leaping from note to note with the left foot! If it happened today, without as many options as I had then, I would have to use more "manual only" technique--and I might be forced to use the bass coupler! ... It certainly helped me realize just how important my hands and feet are to my happiness each day."
"I hate to say it, but it's probably best just to take a break. I injured my foot badly last fall in an accident, and I tried to keep going by just using one foot, then by trying to play with a still-painful foot after it healed a bit. Neither was a good solution; it messed up my technique completely and caused me to overuse other joints trying to compensate. I had to take a break for several months. I've had students before who injured their arms or hands and tried to keep playing, and the same thing happened: they just learned really bad habits. One young man still plays with his elbow and wrist held stiffly in front of him from a period of practicing with a cast on his arm. The good news is, now that I've given my foot plenty of time to heal, it's back and better than ever, with no residual problems."
"I have continued to play the organ with several types of injuries through the years. Just this last year I fell in a parking lot, breaking my nose, as well as spraining my knee; another fall left me with a concussion and sprained wrist. Some years ago I broke my kneecap and continued to play, as it was my left knee. For the first 4 weeks I used just manuals, but was still able to drive. March 10 of this year I fell and shattered some ribs and deflated my lungs. It is going to be awhile before I can play this time. I have had carpal tunnel, ulnar nerve palsy, and continued to play. i remember many years ago when my sister played in a recital with a broken thumb. I really hate to miss Palm Sunday and Easter this year. I am confined to home (being dismissed from the hospital yesterday) with home nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy and a home health aid, as well as Meals on Wheels. I was wanting a vacation, but not like this. God promises us that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord, who are called according to His purpose."
It looks like the consensus is to take a break unless you can't. That was my decision as well. I'm finally able to walk almost normally again, so I'm hoping to try out my organ shoes again soon.